(Continued from Betrayal at the Altar)
Celestine cannot sleep, so she replays her marriage in her mind. Certain things are now making sense. There have always been red flags in her relationship with Moses but she did not think too much about them because this was not Benedict…this was Moses, a Man of God. Moses liked to flirt, sometimes even in her presence. She noticed this long before they got married. One day she confronted him about it, but he turned the argument around by accusing her of being an impediment to his ministry. How could she be so petty, insecure and jealous even though she knew he was a youth pastor, and that girls were part of the youth in the church? Was she doubting his salvation? Celestine had felt ashamed and asked for his forgiveness. So even when she on subsequent occasions found him in compromising situations with girls in his office, she chided herself for being insecure. She was going to be a pastor’s wife, so these girls would be part of her life as well. She was going to be their mummy.
Once, about a month to their wedding, one of the girls in the worship team called Nancy called her and told her she wanted to have a word with her, away from the church. They met at a restaurant and Nancy, amid tears, told her that she was uncomfortable with the way Moses kept hitting on her. Nancy told Celestine that she had already confronted him and threatened to report him to the Senior Pastor and the deacons, but he had told her, correctly, that nobody would believe her. He even threatened to “teach her a lesson”. Moses knew he was the golden, blue-eyed boy of the church, and nobody thought he could do any wrong. So Nancy was asking Celestine to tell him to just leave her in peace, and to ask her, Celestine, to be careful before getting married to him.
Celestine, not wanting to have another nasty confrontation with Moses, sought the counsel of an older Christian woman: Mrs. Mativo. Mrs. Mativo was, in addition to being the host of the Bible study that she attended, also the chairlady of the Ladies Fellowship. Celestine told Mrs. Mativo what Nancy had said, and also told her about her earlier reservations about Moses’ flirting. Mrs. Mativo told her that for her marriage to stand, she would have to stop listening to gossip. She reminded her that many girls were jealous of the fact that she was the one the handsome pastor had chosen, and would do anything to stop them from getting married. Till today Celestine has no idea what Mrs. Mativo told the Senior Pastor but the following Sunday Pastor Henry, the Senior Pastor, humiliated Nancy during the sermon, calling her a ‘cheap gossip’ and a ‘jealous home breaker’. He went ahead and suspended her from the worship team. Nancy left the church bitterly that week.
As Celestine remembers all this, fresh tears well in her eyes. She picks her Bible from the table and opens it, looking for comfort. The chapter that leaps to her eyes is Psalm 13.
How long, Lord? Will you utterly forget me? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I carry sorrow in my soul, grief in my heart day after day? How long will my enemy triumph over me?
She doesn’t read beyond there. She breaks down into a new round of crying.
She must have fallen asleep at some point because when her phone rings it startles her. She is still lying at the couch and realizes that it is morning. She looks at the clock on the wall. 7.00. She cannot believe that she slept soundly the whole night. But the sleep has not lifted the gloom that she is feeling deep inside.
She looks at the ringing phone: it is her boss calling. He called last evening and she did not have the energy to talk to him. But now she knows she has to pick the call. With her husband in the arms of another woman, she cannot afford to lose her job as well.
“Celestine, what is up with you? I expected you here last night. What is going on with you? You are not usually this reckless,” he asks harshly. William is a kind man but he is also a no nonsense boss. He goes out of his way to make his employees comfortable, like getting her a different flight when she missed hers, but he doesn’t tolerate laziness or sloppiness. He has been known to fire employees on phone.
Celestine can feel the tears coming again, so she bites her tongue for a moment to stop herself from crying.
“I have no excuse for missing the morning flight. It was out of sheer recklessness. I underestimated the traffic I would encounter on my way to the airport. But when I got home to wait for the evening flight, I found my husband in bed with another woman. I lost focus from there. I did not even have the energy to pick the phone when you called last night.”
Celestine doesn’t know if it is appropriate to share such an intimate detail with her boss, but she cannot think of an excuse to give. Besides, William is an intelligent man and he will know right away if she is lying to him. To her surprise, his voice softens.
“I am sorry, Celestine. Where are you?”
“I am at home,”
“Where is your husband?”
“I haven’t seen him since yesterday. He left with the girl,”
“Come to Zanzibar,”
“I don’t think I am in the right frame of mind to do that,”
“Listen to me Celestine. I know you feel like the world is ending. But trust me it is not. If that fool has decided to dump you, then it is his loss. You should not stay in the house and feel sorry for yourself. Joining us here will help you relax and take away your mind from your husband’s infidelity. I am going to get you another flight. You only need to tell me whether you are coming and I will make the call,”
“Can I call you to confirm in ten minutes?”
After hanging up, she calls her mother and tells her the truth. More tears flow. Then she tells her mother about her boss’ advice and offer.
“I think you should go,” Vivian tells her daughter.
“I don’t have the energy, mom. Besides, I don’t want to go and ruin their holiday making with my gloom,”
“About the energy, push yourself. Do not allow Moses to turn you into a useless bag on self-pity. About ruining your colleague’s happiness, don’t. Go out there and have fun, just like them. And when the retreat is over, come home to mommy.”
After hanging up, she calls her boss and tells him that she is willing to take up the offer.
William has gotten her a 2 pm flight, and she knows she cannot afford to miss it. As it is, he has already exercised a lot of patience with her, probably because she has so far been one of his best employees. But everyone has a limit, and she doesn’t want to push it with William.
She rises from the couch and tidies up the sitting room. She cleans the utensils in the sink-which must have been used by Moses and Mercy because she had cleaned utensils before she left for the airport yesterday morning. But she is unable to make the bed. She actually feels like taking it out and burning it.
Instead, she takes a shower and dresses. She did not unpack yesterday, so her suitcase is still ready for the journey. She grabs a book and hails an Uber, leaving the house at 9 am. She is in town by 10 am, so she finds a coffee shop and finds a quiet spot where she reads while sipping her cappuccino. She hails another Uber at 12 noon and is at the airport by 1 pm.
William Letoo is by all standards a good looking man. At 47, he is at his prime. He is tall, a heritage from his Maa roots. His father was a Maasai, while his mother was a Samburu before her marriage. They are both dead now. A gym enthusiast, William has a well-toned body that he also takes care of by being particularly choosy with his diet, and drinking copious amounts of water. His parents were traditionalists, but his education was sponsored by white missionaries from the Church of England. They were a man and his wife and they treated him like their son. Due to their influence, William converted to Christianity as a child. But over the years his faith has slowly slipped away. Some people describe him as an agnostic-but in reality he is just a man who doesn’t spend his time thinking about God. As he puts it, it is not something “that would make him lose sleep”.
He is almost a teetotaler. Almost. He doesn’t touch alcohol for the entire year, but he indulges in glasses of wine during the weeklong annual company retreat. The primary reason he doesn’t drink is because he is a workaholic. He spends hours upon hours on his desk or in meetings and therefore argues that he has “no time to be drunk or nurse hangovers.”
He has spent his entire career in the corporate world. When he topped his class at Mang’u High School, his sponsors, Mr. & Mrs. White, sent him to the prestigious London School of Economics where he graduated with a Degree in Economics. From the LSE he went to Harvard Business School for his Masters in Finance and got a job in Wall Street with JP Morgan Asset Management. He was 25. He worked there for three years before he moved to the World Bank. After eight years with the World Bank, he was back to Wall Street, this time as a senior manager in another investment firm. Four years later, he turned forty and resigned from the firm. He felt that is was time to come back home. That was seven years ago. He set up Willeto Investment Group when he returned and has grown it to be a top investment firm in Kenya.
William has been married twice, but both marriages collapsed after his wives complained about his long working hours. He has two children, one with each woman. They are both young adults and live with their mothers in the United States.
When he was a young investment professional at JP Morgan, William fell in love with a colleague called Kathryn. When the relationship went south, Kathryn became so hostile that it became almost impossible to work with her. She turned some of his colleagues against him. The office environment became so toxic that their performance, all of them, plummeted and it wasn’t long before their bosses found out what was going on. Kathryn was fired, partly because she was his senior and partly because of a bunch of emails she had sent to colleagues urging them to sideline him. William was let off with a warning.
That experience left him with a lasting impression. He vowed that he would never again date a colleague-or an employee. When he set up Willeto Investment Group, he engaged his lawyers to set up a comprehensive sexual harassment policy. Senior employees are forbidden from dating, or even flirting with, their juniors. Romance between peers is not forbidden, but William has made it clear that if it affects performance and productivity at work, then the affected parties will be fired summarily.
The sexual harassment policy has been tested twice. His first employees were two brilliant young people. One was a lady called Monica, and another was a young man called Andrew. As the firm grew, intense rivalry developed between. It became even more fierce when the firm ventured into real estate, and it became known that William was looking for someone to manage the new department.
To upstage her colleague, Monica resulted to seducing William. At first William ignored her. Even as her skirts became shorter and her cleavage became more visible, he pretended that he was not seeing anything. Even as she found reasons to be in his office more and more often, he continued to ignore her. Then one evening, during the annual company retreat and after having too much to drink, Monica declared her love for him and kissed him in the presence of her colleagues. That year they were vacationing in Dubai. William fired her the following morning, when she was sober, and sent her back to Nairobi the same day.
Andrew got the slot they were fighting for, but got fired two years later when William found out that he was harassing junior female employees sexually.
Celestine wakes up with a headache. For a moment she is disoriented, before she remembers where she is: in a hotel room in Zanzibar. She remembers landing in Zanzibar and taking a taxi to the hotel where her colleagues were staying. She was shown her room and settled in, then joined her colleagues for dinner in the dining room that the hotel had reserved for them. She remembers taking a glass of wine because she thought it would help her forget all about Moses…oh Lord no.
Wine. And I am pregnant. What was I thinking?
She knows she must have gotten drunk because she cannot remember anything else, including how she got into her room.
What was I thinking? She asks herself and starts sobbing.
There is a knock on the door, which she ignores. After the third knock, the door opens. Lucy, William’s secretary, enters.
“Celestine, what is the matter?” Lucy asks gently. She is in her fifties and is the oldest employee at Willet.
“I am a bad mother, Lucy,” Celestine says, sobbing.
“What do you mean?”
“I am pregnant, and I got drunk last night. What if I lose my baby?”
Lucy takes her hand and squeezes it.
“If you don’t touch alcohol again, your baby will most likely be fine. But you have something else to worry about,”
“What? Did I make a fool of myself last night?”
“Worse. After entertaining us with traditional songs and exotic dance moves, you staggered to the place where William was sitting, sat on his lap and kissed him.”
“Oh Lord no,” Celestine says, covering her face with her hands and falling back onto the bed.
“You need to freshen up quickly. I brought you some painkillers if you need them. William wants to see you in fifteen minutes.”
“Am I being fired?”
Lucy looks at her kindly and shrugs her shoulders.
“I am sure by now you have heard about Monica.”
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